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Last Updated:  Friday, 14 March, 2003, 15:03 GMT
SA maids fired over Aids
Publicity shot from South African TV series Madge and Eve
Maids and employers have always had an uneasy relationship

Domestic workers in South Africa found to be HIV-positive are being sacked by their employers.

Aids counsellors and the union representing domestic workers say the practice is becoming widespread, the Cape Times newspaper reports.

It is illegal in South Africa to sack an HIV-positive employee or demand they take a test for the virus before being given a job.

Facts and figures on the impact of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa

One in nine people in the country is HIV positive.

Myrtle Witbooi of the South African Domestic and Allied Workers Union told the paper that "most employers are scared if they have children."

But he said: "If an employee has HIV, both parties must go for counselling to learn how to cope. They should sit down and discuss it thoroughly.

Separate cupboard

Ivan Polson of the South African labour department said that workers who face discrimination over their HIV status or are asked to take a test before being hired can take their employers to the arbitration service.

South African protester
Aids activists want more help from the government

Mr Witbooi said there had recently been three cases where employers had tested their domestic servants.

"One last month tested positive and was fired. She is a young woman with a child," the union spokesman said.

An HIV-positive maid told the Cape Times she has experienced discrimination because of her status.

"I was told I had to have my own cup, knife and fork and keep them in a separate cupboard. They are not educated about Aids. They don't know the pain this makes me feel", she said.

Mr Polson of labour department said the chances of passing the disease from ordinary household activities are slim.

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